DANVERS — The Danvers football team had a solid stretch of play where it hit hard, produced points, and generally out-played its rival from Gloucester.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, that emotional play didn’t come until they had already fallen behind by three scores.
Danvers nearly erased a 22-point deficit, but couldn’t completely close the gap and suffered its eighth straight Thanksgiving Day loss to Gloucester, 28-19.
“When you give a rival momentum and confidence and make them feel like everything they’re doing is successful, it just makes their job that much easier,” Danvers coach Sean Rogers said. “You can’t wait until the second half to try to play football; it’s just too late at that point.”
Danvers, which finishes the season 5-6, managed only 55 yards of offense in the first half. The Falcons couldn’t get their dangerous ground game in motion, and they couldn’t slow down the Fisherman attack, either.
Gloucester junior running back John Curcuru broke touchdown runs of 62 and 28 yards in the first half, and senior quarterback Santo Parisi added a 29-yard scoring run to post the guests to a 22-0 advantage.
The Fishermen (4-7), who ended the season with three consecutive wins, nearly put the game out of reach late in the first half. Gloucester’s final drive of the first half stalled in the red zone just before intermission.
The first two quarters proved to be a wakeup call for the Falcons as they scored twice in the third quarter to make it a nine-point game (22-13).
“We just told our kids that they gotta start playing,” Rogers said. “They just were not playing football and we just put it on them to start playing and execute their assignments and be physical. When we started being physical we played much better in the second half. You just can’t wait until the second half to start football. That really hurts us today.”
Danvers’ second-half surge was due in large part to Rogers’ decision to shift to a spread formation. Operating primarily out of an empty backfield, sophomore quarterback Nick Andreas began moving the Falcons through the air.
After completing 1 of 4 passes for 1 yard in the first half, Andreas connected on 8 of 17 second-half passes for 179 yards. He threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to classmate John Thomas and hit Alex Valles for a 55-yard score late in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t think there was a (second half) letdown on our part. I think the Danvers coaching staff got Danvers ready to play,” Gloucester coach Tony Zerilli said. “They came out in that second half and they were hitting, they were high, they were flying, and they were all over the place on defense. We had trouble finding them and had trouble blocking them that second half.”
Valles, who has been a touchdown machine the second half of the year, got Danvers on the board with a 43-yard TD run early in the third quarter.
Despite playing well after the half, Danvers was plagued by a pair of second-half turnovers.
Trailing by only nine points, an Andreas pass slipped through the fingers of an open receiver and was grabbed by Gloucester defensive back Mark Horgan. The Fishermen then needed only seven plays to regain control. Parisi, who was noticeably hobbling from an ankle injury, crashed into the end zone from a yard out late in the third quarter.
“Anytime you get a turnover and turn that into points it changes the momentum,” Zerilli said. “I was saying it’s a momentum game. We have momentum in the first half, they came back and had momentum in the second half, and until that pick they had momentum. Turning that into a touchdown flipped the switch back the other way.”
The Danvers defense forced a punt early in the fourth quarter, but then fumbled the ball away on a fourth-and-1 near midfield.
Andreas’ touchdown pass to Valles was also followed by a successful on-side kick, but the Falcons failed to move the ball after that and Gloucester was able to run out the clock.
Gloucester got offensive balance from Curcuru (18 carries, 165 yards), Jordan Pallazola (15-83) and Parisi (6-69).
Valles caught five passes for 92 yards and also rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries.
“I thought our seniors stepped up and really led in the second half,” Rogers said. “The seniors deserve a lot of credit, and not just for what they did in the second half but for what they’ve done the last four years.”
Gloucester 28, Danvers 19
at Dr. Deering Stadium, Danvers
Gloucester (4-7) 14 8 6 0 — 28
Danvers (5-6) 0 0 13 6 — 19
G-John Curcuru 62 run (Jordan Pallazola rush)
G-Santo Parisi 29 run (kick blocked)
G-Curcuru 28 run (Parisi rush)
D-Alex Valles 43 run (rush failed)
D-John Thomas 58 pass from Nick Andreas (Anthony Garron kick)
G-Parisi 1 run (pass failed)
D-Valles 55 pass from Andreas (pass failed)
RUSHING: Gloucester — John Curcuru 18-165, Jordan Pallazola 15-83, Santo Parisi 6-69, Mark Horgan 10-22, Devin Hemeon 1-6; Danvers — Alex Valles 10-55, Alex Grant 6-24, John Thomas 3-19, Anthony Garron 1-2, Nick Andreas 5-(-2).
PASSING: Gloucester — Parisi 3-7-29-0-0, Conor Harris 0-1-0-0-0; Danvers — Andreas 9-21-180-2-1.
RECEIVING: Gloucester — Hemeon 2-29, Horgan 1-0; Danvers — Valles 5-92, Thomas 1-58, Garron 1-19, Jake Cawlina 1-10, Max McKinnon 1-1.
You ought to know After an 0-2 start in the league, Gloucester ended up finishing in second place in the Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 2 with a 3-2 record, behind only undefeated Beverly. The future does look bright for Danvers with quarterback Nick Andreas and running back John Thomas only in their sophomore years, and junior running back Alex Valles still has a senior year to look forward to. "We gotta get in the weight room and do all the offseason stuff, get bigger, faster, stronger and start back at ground zero next year. It's a whole new team. We're losing 18 seniors. We gotta find our identity this offseason." Danvers coach Sean Rogers said about next fall's prospects. The Fishermen now hold a 44-19-2 advantage in this rivalry overall, and lead 35-15 on Thanksgiving. Danvers took 45 yards of penalties in the first half. Cathy Newbegin, long-time Danvers Secretary to the Director of Athletics, was presented with a bouquet of flowers at halftime. Yesterday was her final day on the job. She's retiring and moving to Florida.